Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Oct. 3 that he’s postponing floor activity for the next two weeks after several senators contracted COVID-19. However, the confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett will continue as scheduled, starting Oct. 12.
“Since May, the Judiciary Committee has operated flawlessly through a hybrid method that has seen some senators appear physically at its hearings while other members have participated virtually,” McConnell said in a statement on Oct. 3. “The committee has utilized this format successfully for many months while protecting the health and safety of all involved. Certainly, all Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings.”
The Senate was scheduled to return Oct. 5. The House, meanwhile, went on its regularly scheduled October recess.
Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tested positive for the virus. Lee and Tillis are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and were at the White House when President Donald Trump announced he was choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee.
Trump was also diagnosed with the CCP virus and is being treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. First Lady Melania Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and several White House staffers were also diagnosed with the disease.
The diagnoses come as Republicans try to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. McConnell said the outbreak won’t impact the start of their hearings.
“The important work of the Senate’s committees can and will continue as each committee sees fit. The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene on October 12th as Chairman Graham has scheduled to begin confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” he said, referring to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham, in another statement, said the hearings won’t be delayed.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is opposed to Barrett’s confirmation before the election, said the hearings are “too dangerous to continue.”
“The decision to recess the Senate for two weeks after at least three Republican Senators have tested positive for COVID-19 makes clear that the Senate cannot proceed with business as usual as the virus continues to run rampant. If it’s too dangerous to have the Senate in session, it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue,” he said in a statement on Oct. 3.